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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Anxiety in Happy Valley

Chess players know that a stalemate exists when one player cannot make a move without being checkmated.

Penn State hasn't offered 81 year-old head football coach Joe Paterno a new contract, and, according to university president Graham Spanier's statement, Coach Paterno hasn't asked for one. This article reports that contract talks between Penn State and Paterno have been tabled until after the 2008 season.

It's hard to discern what's been discussed, but this situation has been untenable for a while and remains that way. Paterno doesn't own the job, and, yes, Penn State doesn't owe him the job. Yes, Paterno has done great things in State College, but he's been well-compensated and well-recognized for his achievements. The last time I checked, it's Penn State University and not Joe Paterno university, which means that at the end of the day it's Graham Spanier and the Penn State trustees who have the upper hand.

Should they treat Joe fairly and with dignity? Of course. Should Joe have a (big) say in who his successor is? Most likely, yes. Is Joe bigger than the institution? No. Can he stay as long as he likes? No.

What should happen here (and what should have happened years ago) is an outstanding handoff. While John Chaney wasn't the legend at Temple that Joe Paterno is at Penn State, he knew when it was time to retire. Temple hired a fantastic coach in Fran Dunphy (Penn State-ites should be familiar with Dunphy for two reasons -- one, he coaches in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where many diehard Penn State alums live, and, two, he turned down the Penn State men's hoops job after Jerry Dunn was fired over five years ago). Dunphy has proven to be a very worthy successor to Chaney, and Chaney was thrilled when Temple hired Dunphy. It has been a great transition.

No, it won't be easy to replace Joe Paterno, but replaced he must be. And, it seems like he must be told it's time to step down and hand over the reigns, because he hasn't been willing to do so. Great coaching minds/tough guys John Chaney and Pete Carril knew when it was time to hang 'em up, and Joe Paterno should realize the same thing. If he doesn't, it's past time for the Penn State decisionmakers to tell him -- as kindly, well-mannered and dignified as possible -- that's it's time for a successor to take over.

Penn State should stop dancing around this issue. It should confer with Coach Paterno intensely about choosing a successor and then making it happen. If it's not a member of his existing staff, then the Spanier and his A.D. must make plans to conduct a nationwide search after this season and bring in the right guy.

Stalemates are never good, fun or pretty. It's time for the Penn State leadership to make some tough decisions and bring Penn State football well into the twenty-first century.


Anonymous Joe said...

Just read that. Horrible memories.

2:15 PM  

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